The Schadenfreude over Dennis Hastert

By April 28, 2016 January 10th, 2019 No Comments

Dennis Hastert, the former Speak of the House of Representatives, is a creep who belongs in jail, maybe worse. But Hastert isn’t going to jail for his sex crimes, or for that matter the seedy (but legal) “hush money” that he paid his victim.

Hastert was actually convicted for “structuring” cash withdrawals in order to avoid federal reporting requirements that kick in at $10,000. So he was criminally prosecuted, more or less, for avoiding these rules.

Tossing a profiteer lobbyist pervert in jail for a hyper-technical crime sounds great, but prosecutions like this are a perfect example of the fact that the government can prosecute just about anyone it really wants to prosecute, since almost anyone’s violated some obscure rule or regulation. Really, all that stands between most law-abiding citizens and a prosecution by an ambitious politician/prosecutor is whether they get the attention of the wrong bureaucrat for the wrong bit of disfavored behavior.

Those are shifting sands, to say the least, it’s not just scummy politicians like Hastert. Did you know that parents have been prosecuted for not living up to local bureaucrats’ high (and fluid) parenting rules?  That innocent people get picked up every day by the NYPD for having pocket knives on the NYC subway?  The Eric Garner, was died at the hands of the NYPD in 2014, hadn’t done anything wrong in the first place other than sell “loose” cigarettes?

And even though professionals and business people may face prosecution nearly every day, there’s a lot of evidence that hyper-technical criminal codes are effectively targeting poor people.

So, let’s all enjoy the Schadenfreude seeing Hastert locked up (especially since Hastert was one of the politicians who oversaw and could’ve rolled back the structuring rules as a prominent member of Congress) but make it brief. Every one of us is one whiff of bad luck away from being in a similar situation.

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